The William Thompson Watkin Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of William Thompson Watkin (1836-1888), archaeologist and author of Roman Lancashire and Roman Cheshire.

Administrative / Biographical History

The archaeologist and antiquary, William Thompson Watkin, was born in Salford on 15 October 1836, the son of John Watkin (1808-48) of Salford and Mary Hamilton (d.1883), daughter of Benjamin Brierley. He was the second cousin of the great railway promoter and entrepreneur, Sir Edward William Watkin (1819-1901). William was educated at private schools, and pursued a career as a merchant in Liverpool.

Watkin's interest in the Roman occupation of North-West Britain led him to publish, between 1871 and 1888, various articles in a number of journals, such as the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1876, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1887), Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1885, 1887), Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (1879, 1881, 1884, 1886), Archaeologia Aeliana (1885, 1887, 1888), Derbyshire Archaeological Society (1885, 1886), Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society (1888), and the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (1879). He was also a regular contributor of articles to the Archaeological Journal (1871, 1873-4, 1876-88). The most significant products of his research were his books on Roman Lancashire (1883) and Roman Cheshire (1886), which were exemplifications of his careful research and accurate description of objects that he had examined in detail.

He was a member of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1884), and was also the society's Honorary Librarian (1885). He was a member of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, and also served as a councillor (1883-8). He was living at 55 Prescot Street, Liverpool when he died, aged 52, in 1888, and was buried in Arnfield Cemetery, Liverpool. He was married three times: his second wife, Amelia Runcorn (née Broome) bore him a son, William; and his third wife, Marion Smart (née Beeston) bore him two sons and two daughters.

  • 'Watkin, William Thompson (1836-88)' (A.G. Crosby), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G. Mathew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • 'Watkin, Sir Edward William, first baronet (1819-1901)' (C.W. Sutton, rev. Philip S. Bagwell), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G. Mathew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Formby, T., and Axon, E., 'List of the Writings of W. Thompson Watkin', Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 6 (1888), pp. 173-8.
  • Journal of the Chester Archaeological and Historical Society, new ser., 2 (1888), pp. 199-200.
  • Liverpool Courier, 24 March 1888.
  • Manchester City News, 26 May 1888.
  • Manchester Guardian, 24 March 1888.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact archivist@chethams.org.uk.

Acquisition Information

After his death, Watkin's notes on Roman remains in North-West England, North Wales, and elsewhere, along with other manuscripts, were purchased by subscription and presented to Chetham's Library on 24 October 1889. See Watkin/3/5: copy of the printed appeal for money to purchase the Watkin collection for Chetham's Library. The Library contributed £20 out of the Holt Bequest Fund.